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The Central Colorado Conservancy has made progress on their long-running project in the Badger Creek Watershed. They received new funding, conducted successful demonstration projects and gained strong stakeholder support.  In addition, they made progress to ensure these lands and waters regenerate to provide for agriculture and conservation into the future.

The goal is to turn this watershed into a water catchment which means preparing the land to catch more rainwater and slow down flash floods; so that more green grass can be grown for grazing and provide critical habitat for wildlife. Flow to the Arkansas River will be maintained, ideally with less sediment and a more consistent flow.

Map outlines the Badger Creek Watershed project. Image courtesy of Central Colorado Conservancy.

According to the Conservancy, the best way to achieve this is to restore the original wetlands and let nature do the rest.  Wetlands and riparian areas are nature’s system for cleaning, storing, and conserving freshwater. While they make up only 2 percent of the landscape, more than 75 percent of wildlife species depend on them at some point in their life cycle.

In the past few months, the Conservancy was awarded new grants to dramatically expand this work including:

  • $390,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
  • $209,000 from Colorado Parks and Wildlife

This summer the Conservancy treated 2.7 miles of Badger Creek and planted 4,000 willows. Their goal is to restore an additional four miles of its tributaries over the next two years.

The Conservancy says that it continues to work with landowners and land managers in the watershed to develop critical infrastructure, such as fencing and alternative water points to improve grazing management and increase plant cover and vigor.  Since the start of this project, they’ve restored and enhanced ecological function and wildlife habitat on 70 acres of riparian wetlands along 3.7 miles of Badger Creek.

The Badger Creek Watershed is a 100-square-mile area that drains into Badger Creek, which feeds into the Arkansas River between Wellsville and Howard. It lies just 14 miles northeast of Salida as the crow flies, largely in Park and Fremont counties.

A history of erosion dating back to the Texas cattle drives has taken its toll on the area. During severe thunderstorms, the creek can be prone to flash flooding and can carry tons of sediment into the Arkansas River. Today, planned livestock grazing and active restoration are reversing this trend. Badger Creek is an important trout spawning stream between Cañon City and Salida. It also provides a habitat for large game, including elk and pronghorn.

Image courtesy of Colorado Central Conservancy.

One of the main reasons this project is so unique and impactful is the collaboration between so many different public entities and private landowners working together to make it happen. The creek flows through a patchwork of land ownership, including U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, State Land Board and private landowners.

This collaborative conservation model is happening at the watershed or landscape scale, leading to more cohesive land and water management and ensuring a more holistic and long-lasting approach to this work.

As the lead facilitator for the partnership, The Conservancy says that it is proud to work with these partners: the United States Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, Partners for Fish and Wildlife, Colorado State Land Board, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Fremont County Conservation District, Upper Arkansas Conservation District, Teller Park Conservation District, EcoMetrics, AlpineEco, Trout Unlimited, Park County Land and Water Trust Fund, Colorado Healthy Rivers, Colorado Trout Unlimited, Quivira Coalition, Southwest Conservation Corps, Mile High Youth Crew, Colorado Natural Heritage Program, Colorado Mesa University. Private landowners who have collaborated on this project include: Badger Creek Ranch, Brady Everett, Ken and Brett McMurry, Albert Eggleston, and Erik Wayland.